We all know the line from the fairy-tale, “mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?”

What seems like a harmless, cute rhyme from a made-up story, can and has become an everyday question for many people to ask themselves.

“Am I beautiful?”

“Am I pretty?”

“Do I look okay?”

In essence, when we ask ourselves these questions we are asking, “Do I look the way I am supposed to?” Or, “Do I fit the standard of what beautiful is supposed to look like?”

So what exactly is true beauty? Different cultures have all sought to answer this age old question. What was considered “beautiful” throughout history and around the world?

For the Greeks, it was full-figured women with red hair. The symmetry of the face was also a test of how beautiful a person was. The more symmetrical, the more beautiful. In China, it was white skin, big eyes, and small feet. More “tribal” cultures, such as African and South American cultures, thought that large, stretched earlobes, noses, and even large lips were beautiful. Many also considered images or patterns drawn or painted on the skin were beautiful.

Today in America, the standard of beauty is tan skin and a slender frame. The Ancient Egyptians also had the same concept of beauty that Americans have today. “Glowing” skin and a slimmer frame were preferred. Also, youthful skin and a young complexion have been preferred by just about every culture that has ever existed.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on products and treatments to achieve the beauty the world claims we all should have. Countless hours are spent altering one’s own appearance. One study suggests women spend close to three years of their lifetime fixing their hair and doing their makeup. I am not saying these things in and of themselves are bad or wrong. I am, however, suggesting that our obsession and preoccupation with such things is an issue. An over-emphasis on outward beauty leads to a shallow character and a skewed self-image; both of which are harmful in a young person’s development.

Over the years, I have been deeply impacted by what society thinks is beautiful, as many girls are. Something I am learning to do is to stop looking in the mirror and judging my looks on what other people say is beautiful. The world is no longer my source of knowledge or acceptance. The world’s standards are not mine.

The standards of my life are found in the Word of God. The Bible has a lot to say about beauty. However, most of the standards of beauty laid out in the Bible are about character -- the stuff on the inside. Something I wish we all could understand and accept is that we are ALL made in the image of God. Every skin color, every body type, and every feature. We all reflect Him. We all bear His image, and we all should reflect His character. The Bible says that beauty is fleeting. We can put all our efforts into being as beautiful outwardly that we can possibly be, but it will only result in temporary or fleeting beauty. In time, age and the difficulties of life will take its toll and youthful beauty will fade away. The only thing left will be the character that has been cultivated over our lifetime. True beauty that comes from a sterling and noble character will never fade but will in fact grow more lovely with age.

1 Peter 3:3-4: “Your adornment must not be merely external—with interweaving and elaborate knotting of the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or [being superficially preoccupied with] dressing in expensive clothes; but let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God."